Safe Passengers Today; Good Drivers Tomorrow
WASHINGTON, Dec. 14, 2010 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- Safe Kids USA with the support of the General Motors Foundation is launching Countdown2Drive, a national education program that is designed to equip teens ages 13 - 14 and their parents with safe passenger and driving knowledge well before the teen is ready to drive legally. The program's goal is to help teens learn how to protect themselves in vehicles as they become more independent.
"Our goal is to educate young teens, as they begin to transition from passengers to drivers," said John Formisano, president and CEO of Safe Kids Worldwide. "Our research shows teen pre-drivers are eager to learn, and they are focused on the freedom a driver's license and access to a car can provide. By preparing them to be good passengers, Countdown2Drive can help decrease the number of crashes and injuries that occur during their first and most dangerous year of driving. Motor vehicle crashes are the number one killer of teens, with driver inexperience and distractions among the main causes of teen crashes."
While equipping the teen to drive has historically occurred when the teen reaches the state's legal driving age, there is little or no education and training that brings passenger and driver safety information to young teens who are counting down the days to when they can drive. The Countdown2Drive program aims to fill this gap.
Mile for mile, teenagers are four times more likely to be involved in a crash as compared to all other drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. At age 13 and 14, a teen's risk of dying while riding with a teenage driver is double what it was when they were younger. That risk continues to rise as the teen passengers get older. More than 350,000 teens were injured in motor vehicle crashes in 2009. Currently, there are nine states where teens as young as 14 can obtain a driver's permit and 33 states at age 15.
"Texting and talking on cell phones may feel like second nature to a tech-savvy generation, but the truth is, no one can talk or text while driving safely," said U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. "Driving distracted is a dangerous and deadly practice, which is why we need to reach teens early on - before they get a permit and a license to drive."
Safe Kids USA coalitions throughout the United States will equip parents and teen pre-drivers in their communities with targeted safety information and easy-to-use internet based web tools. Parents will be encouraged to discuss key safety issues their teens will face when riding as a passenger or as they prepare to drive. "Parents will have the opportunity to reinforce safety habits that can protect their teens when they ride with other drivers – and these same behaviors will help keep them safe when they get behind the wheel," said Formisano.
"Assuring that young teens are good passengers helps establish strong patterns of behavior," said U.S. Rep. Mike Rogers (Michigan). "Parents have a great opportunity to lay down family rules and guidelines long before the teen is ready to drive with the Countdown2Drive program. As the dad of two teens, I understand the importance of learning, teaching and modeling safety behaviors while children are young and eager to learn."
The Countdown2Drive program will complement the Graduated Driver Licensing Program that is available in 49 states and requires students with a learner's permit to practice their driving skills alongside a parent, prior to obtaining a driver's license.
"For more than 15 years, the National Transportation Safety Board has advocated the Graduated Driver Licensing Program, including teen passenger and cell phone restrictions," noted National Transportation Safety Board Chairman Deborah Hersman. "Given that many teen passenger deaths occur when other teens are driving, the Safe Kids' Countdown2Drive program is a logical extension and a great complement to the Graduated Driver Licensing Program."
A key component of the Countdown2Drive program is a parent-teen Passenger Agreement. Parents and teens can use the webtool at www.countdown2Drive.org to establish family rules and guidelines for driving, rewards, and consequences. Writing the rules into an agreement will help everyone to understand what the family's safe driving expectations are.
"Since 1997, General Motors and the General Motors Foundation have enjoyed a successful partnership with Safe Kids USA in supporting the Safe Kids Buckle Up child passenger safety program, which has reached more than 21 million people," said John Montford, Foundation Chairman. "We look forward to an equally successful launch of Countdown2Drive and helping to maintain it as a national and sustainable education and awareness teen passenger safety program."
The Countdown2Drive program complements Safe Kids USA's portfolio of targeted safety information for parents, which is delivered on a national level through its network of 600 coalitions.
About Safe Kids USA
Safe Kids Worldwide is a global network of organizations whose mission is to prevent unintentional childhood injury, the leading cause of death and disability to children ages 1 to 14. More than 600 coalitions and chapters across the U.S. and nineteen member countries across the globe bring together health and safety experts, educators, corporations, foundations, governments and volunteers to educate and protect families. For more information visit www.safekids.org
About General Motors Foundation
Since its inception in 1976, the GM Foundation has donated hundreds of millions to deserving American charities and to disaster relief efforts worldwide. The GM Foundation focuses on Education, Health and Human Services, Environment and Energy and Community Development initiatives, mainly in the communities where GM operates. For more information, visit www.gm.com/corporate/responsibility/community.
SOURCE Safe Kids Worldwide